T-Qual grants to be honoured

The federal government has confirmed that it will, after all, honour the T-QUAL grants awarded to 89 tourism businesses in a move that will bring tremendous relief to the industry.

Successful applicants will be told of the decision as trade and investment minister Andrew Robb looked to shift the blame for the uncertainty onto Labor.

He insisted it was Labor’s failure to sign contracts for the grants prior to losing the election that was behind the impasse, rather than the Coalition’s handling of the issue.

The delay in honouring the payments, pending the outcome of a review into discretionary grants, had left 89 businesses in limbo.

“We have decided it was important to provide certainty to the tourism sector by honouring these grants so applicants can proceed with plans to enhance their facilities in some cases in time for the upcoming peak tourism period,” Mr Robb said.

He added that it was “entirely appropriate” for the Coalition to review discretionary grants “given the budget mess the new government inherited”.

Grants awarded by Labor, but not contracted, ran into hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, he said.

“The tourism sector is one of Australia’s real strengths but it has faced challenging times on account of a persistently high dollar and things like Labor’s carbon tax,” Robb said. “Confidence across the economy was also sapped on account of the previous government’s chaotic style and budget mismanagement.”

He said the grants will help provide more quality experiences for international visitors “which will be the number one focus of this government”.

Mr Robb confirmed that it will be the final round of T-QUAL grants.

Future grants will be targeted at projects which “enhance tourism infrastructure to help increase demand for Australia as a destination of first choice for international visitors”.

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